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Ward Law, fort and Roman camp

A Scheduled Monument in Nith, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 54.9863 / 54°59'10"N

Longitude: -3.5265 / 3°31'35"W

OS Eastings: 302417

OS Northings: 566815

OS Grid: NY024668

Mapcode National: GBR 3BTS.BB

Mapcode Global: WH5WY.SXXS

Entry Name: Ward Law, fort and Roman camp

Scheduled Date: 26 January 1961

Last Amended: 16 March 2016

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM674

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: fort (includes hill and promontory fort); Roman: camp

Location: Caerlaverock

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Nith

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises a hillfort probably dating to the Iron Age (between 800 BC and AD 500) and an adjacent Roman temporary camp sited some 50m to its north. The hillfort is visible as two or more defensive circuits of banks and ditches enclosing the hill summit. The camp is visible as cropmarks recorded on aerial photographs and survives as buried deposits and features. The fort and camp are physically connected by a ditch system. Both the fort and the camp are located on Ward Law at about 96m above sea level, with commanding views in all directions, especially over the narrowing Solway Firth.

The hillfort is enclosed by at least two circuits of parallel banks and ditches, which enclose the hill summit. The camp was recorded as an earthwork in 1772, but is now only visible as a cropmark. The camp is rectangular in form and originally measured 225m from west southwest to east northeast by 170m transversely. There are several entrances to the camp, with that on the north northwest side protected by an unusual arrangement of four external banks and accompanying ditches (known as tituli). Excavations in 1939 and 1949-50 revealed that the camp is bounded by a rock-cut ditch up to 4.5m wide and 2.4m deep. A cobbled road and causeway led through a gate in the centre of the east side and across the ditch. Aerial observation in 1976 revealed that the Roman camp is physically linked to the fort by a ditch system running from close to its south southeast corner to join the northwest circuit of the hillfort defences. This ditch system is pierced by a Roman-type entrance, suggesting that it is a Roman work.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area specifically excludes the above-ground elements of all post-and-wire fences, drystone walls and public benches. The monument was first scheduled in 1961, but the scheduling did not include all of the archaeological remains: the present amendment rectifies this.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance because of its potential to make a significant addition to our knowledge and understanding of later prehistoric settlement in Scotland, specifically Iron Age and Roman defensive sites. In addition to the visible remains of the banks and ditches, the hillfort has high potential to preserve important buried deposits, features and structures relating to its construction and use, which could enhance our understanding of Iron Age settlement, society and economy, as well as the relationship between natives and incomers. The monument is also of national importance because it has an inherent potential to contribute to our understanding of the construction, use and internal layout of Roman temporary camps. There is good potential for the survival of buried features and deposits, both within the camp interior and in the fills of the ditch. Such deposits could include dateable organic remains and artefactual evidence relating to the occupation of the camp. Within the camp, there is high potential for the survival of occupation evidence, such as rubbish pits and bread ovens, which can help inform our understanding of the date of use of the camp, its layout and organisation, and the daily lives of Roman soldiers while in the field. Organic evidence from the fill of the ditches around the camp could also provide information about the local environment at the time of the camp's construction. Spatial analysis of camps and Roman roads can inform our understanding of Roman military strategy and offer insights into the effects of the Roman occupation on the contemporary Iron Age landscape and its inhabitants. The loss of the monument would diminish our understanding of the construction and use of temporary camps by the Roman army, our knowledge of Roman military structure, economy and social practice, and the relationship between Iron Age defended settlements and Roman military sites.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 66098 and 66099 (accessed on 07/03/2016).

The Dumfries and Galloway Council Historic Environment Record reference is MDG6530 (accessed on 07/03/2016).


Hussen, C-M, Jones, R and Hanson, W S 2009, 'Geophysical Survey on Roman Camps in Scotland – Ward Law, Dumfries and Galloway (Caerlaverock parish), geophysical survey', Discovery Excav Scot 10, 53.

JRS 1940, 'Roman Britain in 1939. I. Sites explored', Jour Roman Stud 30, 161-2.

JRS 1952, 'Roman Britain in 1951. I. Sites explored', Jour Roman Stud 42, 88.

Jones, R H 2011, Roman Camps in Scotland, Edinburgh, 316-317.

Maxwell, G S and Wilson, D R 1987, 'Air reconnaissance in Roman Britain 1977-84', Britannia 18, 23-4.

St Joseph, J K 1952, 'Three Nithsdale sites', in Clarke, J (ed) The Roman occupation of south-western Scotland, Glasgow, 117-20.

Truckell, A E 1950, 'Excavation notes', Trans Dumfriesshire Galloway Natur Hist Antiq Soc, 3rd ser, 27, 203-4.


HER/SMR Reference

The Dumfries and Galloway Council Historic Environment Record reference is MDG6530 (accessed on 07/03/2016).References

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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